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Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

Presenters: Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, Deputy Director For Coalition Operations; and Dan Senor, Senior Adviser, CPA
May 21, 2004 10:45 PM EDT
Coalition Provisional Authority Briefing

            MR. SENOR:  Good evening.  Sorry we're running a few minutes late.  We had some technical difficulties.

 

            I just have one quick announcement and then General Kimmitt has his opening briefing.  Then we'll take your questions.

 

            There was some news reporting last night that in the Iraqi police investigation -- sorry, in the Iraqi police operation yesterday morning, there were officials from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency involved in the operation.  I just want to categorically deny that that occurred.  There were no officials from the CIA, there were no officials from the FBI involved in the Iraqi police investigation.  I just was hoping to clear that up today.  I don't know if it was misreporting or misinformation, but whatever it was, it was incorrect.

 

GEN. KIMMITT:  First of all, I'd like to congratulate the Iraqi journalists for their resounding victory last night on the soccer field.  Well done.

 

            Good afternoon.  The coalition continues offensive operations to establish a stable Iraq in order to repair infrastructure, stimulate the economy and transfer sovereignty. To that end, in the past 24 hours the coalition conducted 1,804 patrols, 13 offensive operations, 44 Air Force and naval sorties, and captured 27 anti-coalition suspects.

 

            Today at Abu Ghraib, 454 detainees were released to coalition military representatives beginning at 8:00 for their return to their respective areas.  The next release at Abu Ghraib will be on 28 May with 394 detainees scheduled for release.

 

            In the northern area of operations, coalition forces conducted four cordon and searches in eastern Mosul targeting individuals of executing attacks against coalition forces.  Three individuals were detained and numerous small arms were confiscated.

 

            Forty-eight police officers from Najaf completed advanced skills training at the Erbil police academy yesterday.  These graduates developed additional capabilities and exchanged tactics, techniques and procedures with their colleagues in another part of Iraq.

 

            In the north-central zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 372 patrols, one offensive operation and captured nine anti-coalition suspects.

 

            Yesterday, 616 members of the Iraqi armed forces graduated from the squad leader course in Kirkush, while an additional 335 members graduated from the senior noncommissioned officers course.  General Amer Ahmed al-Hashimi, the chief of staff for the Iraqi armed forces, spoke at the NCO graduation ceremony.

 

            This morning coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted several raids throughout Kirkuk, including one at the Hussein mosque to capture members of the Sadr militia.  The targets have been linked to several recent attacks, including the bombing in a northern Kirkuk market on 11 May that killed four and injured 27 Iraqis.  During the raid, coalition and Iraqi security forces captured 15 individuals in the mosque as well as confiscating numerous AK-47s, machine guns and hand grenades.

 

            In Baghdad today, coalition forces conducted a raid to capture four individuals suspected of involvement in the Nicholas Berg assassination.  Four persons were detained and questioned.  Two personnel were released, and the other two are still being questioned. My correction: that raid happened two days ago.

 

            Additionally, there was a news report last night alleging additional abuse and torture at detention facilities in Iraq. Coalition forces soundly deny the allegations.  This story was built upon anonymous sources.

 

            And any suggestion that torture is used is false and offensive. The policy is clear throughout Iraq and is used by all forces. Coalition forces inside Iraq adhere to the Geneva Conventions in the conduct of detention and interrogation operations.  The techniques used throughout the theater are approved at the theater level.  And when there are violations, they are investigated and, as necessary, prosecuted.

 

            This kind of careless reporting, which also revealed specific operational locations, only serves to increase the threat our soldiers face daily in Iraq.

 

            The western zone of operations is secure.  Fallujah liaison team- building continues to be the focal point for interaction with Iraqis and around Fallujah.  Iraqis throughout the province, particularly in Ar Ramadi, are bidding on opportunities in Fallujah.  The Iraqis understand that coalition forces are here to work with them to improve the quality of life.  The Al Anbar employment programs are responsible for the hiring of 2,000 people in the last week for various municipalities.

 

            Fallujah remains quiet, without any cease-fire violations since the 3rd of May.  Coalition forces have turned over the joint checkpoints on the north side of the city to the ICDC and only remain at the jointly held checkpoint at the cloverleaf on the eastern portion of the town.  Coalition forces are conducting joint security patrols with the ICDC north of the town.

 

            In the central-south zone of operations, there were a number of engagements in Karbala, to include a number of direct fire, small arms and RPG attacks in the vicinity of Muqaiyam Mosque, which resulted in a number of enemy casualties.    Just after midnight, a screening force was sent to the southern portion of the Ring Road to cover the repositioning of forces at the Muqaiyam Mosque.  The force took a large amount of RPG fire from a building directly across the street from the main holy shrine, and, fearing potential collateral damage from using direct fire weapons in response, instead used precision AC-130 fire to respond to the enemy attacks and eliminate the opportunity for any collateral damage on the holy shrines.

 

            Later that morning there was a sustained engagement on the northern sector of the city from multiple RPG attacks, and the AC-130 was again used against that target as well.

 

              This afternoon, a BMW as part of a larger convoy approached a coalition checkpoint between Kufa and Karbala at a high rate of speed, firing small arms at the military personnel.  Coalition forces returned fire, disabling the vehicle, killing the driver and injuring one of the passengers.  Two personnel were detained from this incident.

 

            Tomorrow, the chief of police of Najaf will -- correction, the chief of police of Karbala will deploy Iraqi police into Najaf to reassert Iraqi police control of the city.

 

            In the southeastern zone of operations, coalition and Iraqi security forces conducted 326 patrols and captured eight anti- coalition suspects.

 

            MR. SENOR:  And with that, we'll be happy to take your questions.

 

            Yes, Mark.

 

            Q     Thank you, Dan.  Mark Stone, ABC.  General Kimmitt, can you give us any more information on these individuals that you are still holding and that you -- in relation to the Nicholas Berg case?  Who arrested them?  Who was in the operation?  And any truth to the reports that they are former Saddam Fedayeen rather than Zarqawi?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  No, I know there are a number of rumors floating about this.  We have two persons still in custody, in detention. We're questioning them.  We may find out that they have no association with the murder, but we will continue to question them for some period of time, until we're convinced they're innocent.  Who they are or where they come from, all I was informed of is that we had four suspects.  I don't know their prior affiliations or their prior organizations.

 

            Q     So was this an Iraqi arrest?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  We believe the intelligence came from Iraqi tips, and coalition forces conducted the detention.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Pam.

 

            Q     General Kimmitt, I just want to clarify from the statement that you read earlier.  Are there any interrogation methods being used by this military at any battlefield interrogation facility in Iraq that are authorized that violate the Geneva Conventions?  GEN. KIMMITT:  Absolutely not.

 

            Q     Can you think of any scenario where that might be allowed?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  No.

 

            Q     Thank you.

 

              MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     Carson Hoffman (sp), German News Agency, DPA.  General can you provide the figure about how many detainees died in the Abu Ghraib prison since the coalition forces took over control there, what was stated in the document as the way of their deaths, and who signed off for this?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I can't answer that question.  We can find that answer for you.  I don't know -- I just don't have that at my fingertips right now.

 

            Q     I would be thankful, yeah.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Okay.  Sure.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     I'm Matthew Green from Reuters.  The general was talking about a report of torture at bases that -- he was denying while he was speaking just earlier.  Could you just clarify which exact reports you were referring to then?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  There were some reports that ran in the news last night.  I think you can probably use the Internet to find out those reports.

 

            Q     Which media provided those reports?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  We'll talk to you about that after this -- after the press conference.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, ma'am?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Halim Asaidi (ph) from Sabah Newspaper.  Some of the members of the GC requested from Ambassador Bremer to apologize for the assault that took place against the headquarters of Mr. Chalabi.  What was the response of the Coalition Authority?  Thank you.

 

            MR. SENOR:  If anybody is seeking an apology, it should be directed at the Iraqi police service.  If there's a concern with the investigation or the way the operation was conducted, it should be directed at the Iraqi investigative judge who issued the arrest    warrants.  This was not something that Ambassador Bremer was involved in.

 

            Dexter?

 

            Q     Dan, which government agency or which government contract did the American plainclothes civilians, who were armed, who accompanied the soldiers, work for -- in the Chalabi raid?

 

            MR. SENOR:  They were -- sure.  Well, first, let me say that there were no officials from the Central Intelligence Agency.  There were no officials there from the Federal Bureau of Investigations. There were no Defense Intelligence Agency officials there.  There were private contractors who work for the Ministry of Interior.  And their job is primarily -- my understanding is, their job is the professionalization of the Iraqi police service.  So they were there to observe and advise the Iraqi police during this operation, as they do on numerous operations.  They are the only non-Iraqis, to my understanding, that were there.

 

            There was one woman, an -- who was American, who identified herself as an employee of the Iraqi National Congress, who was there when the police service arrived on the scene.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  And Dexter, you said, escorted the "soldiers."  I know you meant the Iraqi police.

 

            There were U.S. soldiers that were involved in the outer cordon.  The only purpose in this operation was that if there was any collateral violence that was associated with this, with their responsibility to maintain a safe and secure environment throughout Baghdad, that's what they were there for.  But, however, the actual police operation was one conducted by the Iraqi police.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Rachel?

 

            Q     Hi.  I know you can't comment about who the warrants are for, but is Mr. Chalabi himself also under investigation in connection with what we saw yesterday?

 

            And the second question is for the general.  Could you talk a little bit about Fallujah in terms of what the status of it is now, how it's changed, and what problems you're still facing?

 

            MR. SENOR:  I am not aware of any arrest warrants or investigations other than those that were made public yesterday by the judge who spoke here, the Iraqi judge who spoke here yesterday afternoon.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  With regard to Fallujah, as you know, General Mattis and General (O'Keefe ?) held a press conference yesterday where they expressed general satisfaction at the progress that's being made. Is it going as fast as we would want?  Absolutely not.  But is it at least moving forward?  Yes, we're quite pleased with the fact that it continues to move forward.  Take a look at where it is now, where we are in Fallujah now.  We have Iraqi control back in the city.  We soon will have joint patrols throughout the city.  We are starting to see some of the heavy weapons being turned in, which we had always pushed as one of our objectives.  We have indicators that the Iraqi police may soon be able to provide information that will be helpful in the investigation with regard to the persons that were horribly mutilated about a month and a half ago.  We have started to pull the Marines off the outer cordon -- the inner cordon around the city, and we have Iraqi forces conducting those checkpoints.

 

            So in general, if you take a look at where Fallujah is now compared to where it was as recently as April 15th, there has been measurable progress.  I know that General Conway is quite pleased with that progress.  I know that General Mattis is quite pleased with that progress.  But more importantly, it would appear that the people of the city of Fallujah are satisfied with that progress.  They are now    starting to see what the capabilities that can be brought by the government of Iraq and by the U.S. Marine Corps in terms of bringing opportunities into the city.

 

            So we still have a ways to go before all of the objectives we have set out for Fallujah are met, but nonetheless, in the estimation of the Marines and the Iraqi military that's in the region, they're making great process.

 

            Q     Just one follow-up.  Since you're seeing this now, had there ever been thoughts in the beginning when you were initially -- you know, the Marines were going in, was there ever a thought to actually have that be more of an Iraqi force from the get-go?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Oh, absolutely.  And as you know, we did start that operation off with a substantial Iraqi force.  We did have some problems with that force, both Iraqi armed forces and some of the ICD units, so we had, reluctantly, a smaller contribution of the Iraqi forces at the beginning of that operation than we certainly do now.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     General, Peter Kenyon from NPR.  Just to clarify on the Berg issue, there are two people in custody who may have something to do with this but you're not sure?  Is it just they possibly may be aware of it, or is it more serious than that?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, that's exactly why we're questioning them. We have some intelligence that would suggest they had knowledge, perhaps some culpability, but we're not going to know until we've actually finished the questioning.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q     (Name inaudible) -- NHK.  Another journalist has been killed today from Al Jazeera.  So, what kind of information do you have?  And did you begin the investigation about this?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Well, we saw the same reports that you did, that there may have been an Al Jazeera journalist killed either in Karbala or Najaf.

 

            Q     Karbala.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Karbala.

 

            Q     Yes, early in the morning.  GEN. KIMMITT:  There is absolutely no report that has come through military channels.  I spoke with General Dempsey before I came in here.  He would ask that any information regarding a person being killed working for Al Jazeera -- that that information could be brought forth to him.  It could well be that the Jazeera reporter was with a group of Muqtada militia when they were conducting attacks on coalition forces.  But again, I'm only speculating.  We have no specific information or reports regarding that death.  And anything that could be brought forward to aid in that investigation would be helpful.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes?

 

            Q    Jackie Spinner with The Washington Post.  Back to the Chalabi raid.  My understanding is the law that -- basically the provision that set up the court said that it could only act with the endorsement of the administrator.  So was that not followed in this case?

 

            MR. SENOR:  I'm sure it was followed.  A number of months ago when the investigation was pursued, once it reached a serious stage, to the point where it's gone through a very robust and thorough process and is ready to be referred to the Central Criminal Court, the process is then presented to Ambassador Bremer and he makes a referral.  It's a procedural matter, which he's done in well over a hundred of these cases.  The only criteria is the investigation is serious, thorough, robust and has reached the point that it's ready to go forward to the Central Criminal Court.

 

            Ambassador Bremer doesn't intervene in these respective cases, he just handles the procedural matter of referring it.

 

            That's what he did in this case, as he's done in well over a hundred. That was the extent of our involvement.

 

            Again, to reiterate what I said earlier, there were no CIA, FBI, DIA officials on the scene.  And those contractors that were there, the Ministry of Interior contractors, my understanding is there was one individual contractor at each scene, at each property, again, just to observe and advise.  And they were not there at the direction of the coalition.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Say, Dan, what is your remarks about the statements made by Mr. Chalabi over three times, he is saying that there is a danger from the Ba'ath party that is coming, and a number of Ba'athists began to receive important positions in the Iraqi state?  Also, yesterday he made a statement before the journalists that the American government in Iraq now is beginning to give -- is taking care of the Ba'athists.  What do you think of this?

 

            MR. SENOR:  My response is give us names; point out to us who these Ba'athists are that are assuming positions of power.  If it is in violation of the de-Ba'athification policy that Ambassador Bremer has worked on with Governing Council, we'd be happy to correct it.

 

            We've said all along that there were some people that would wind up getting de-Ba'athified that probably shouldn't, and we'd seek to correct those situations when they're made known to us.  And there will be some Ba'athists who wind up getting back into positions of power in violation of the policy -- people with blood on their hands, people who were directly involved in the former regime's crimes, and when that's made available to us, we will get to the bottom of it and ensure that they're out of positions of power.  But we need to know who these people are.

 

            So blanket statements about Ba'athists coming back to power don't really make a constructive contribution to our combined goal here, our collective goal here, which is to ensure that senior level Ba'athists do not get back into positions of power.

 

            The first action, as many of you know, that Ambassador Bremer took when he arrived in Iraq was his public order on de- Ba'athification.  He signed it on May 16th.  It's probably the single most popular policy he has initiated here.  When he travels across the country, people still thank him for having a very tough de- Ba'athification policy.  The only issue that he addressed many months later is the implementation of the policy.    There was an appeals process set up by the Governing Council to allow people who may have been Ba'athists in name only but weren't directly involved with the former regime's crimes -- give them an opportunity to appeal in the hope that they could regain employment. And the only issue Ambassador Bremer addressed is once the appeal was granted, to ensure that the job was reinstated, because we had over 10,000 teachers whose appeals were granted, but their jobs weren't reinstated.  So we just wanted to expedite that time delay between the appeal granted and the job reinstatement.

 

            That's the extent of the only sort of expediting modification we have made on the de-Ba'athification policy.

 

            If anyone has information on senior-level Ba'athists who are -- were involved with the regime's crimes getting jobs back, please let us know.  But we need specifics in order to act on it.

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  During a period, the case is in a crisis with Chalabi.  First, they cut his allocated money, several thousand dollars a month.  And they said that the first raid yesterday was not really the first, that this is the third or the fourth raid on his office.  Why has the situation reached a crisis with Mr. Chalabi at this stage?  Is there anything that we don't know about this?

 

            MR. SENOR:  I don't know of any other "raids," to use your word, that have occurred on INC properties.

 

            As to the cutoff of the funding, the reason the Department of Defense cut off funding for the Iraqi National Congress is because everybody thought it inappropriate, understandably, post-June 30th, when there's a sovereign Iraqi government here, for the U.S. government to continue funding individual political parties.

 

            The INC was funded when it was obviously a vehicle of opposition to the Saddam Hussein regime and continued to be a source that was helpful in our overall efforts in the reconstruction of Iraq during this period.  But now there's going to be a sovereign Iraqi government here.  We'll be gone from this process.  And it is important for any efforts that the U.S. government is engaging in with Iraqis to be on a bilateral basis between the United States government and the Iraqi government, not between the U.S. government and specific political parties operating inside Iraq.

 

            Yes, sir?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Moussam Hamid (ph).  With regard to what happened, the killing of 45 individuals, was it possible to use other methods instead of attacking by airplanes?  Did the camera show you that there were children in this village?

 

            The second question, Mr. Chalabi challenged you and he said that America is going to raise a lot of problems.  What is your remarks with regard to this?  GEN. KIMMITT:  On your first comment regarding the operation that was run in the middle of the desert two nights ago, in fact it was a combination of air assets and ground assets.  So we did have persons on the ground as part of that operation.  So it was not just something that was done by our air assets.

 

            Those people on the ground identified no children as part of that location.  They -- that were killed.  All of the casualties that they came back and provided in their reports were adults.

 

            MR. SENOR:  What was your second question?

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Mr. Chalabi yesterday challenged the United States and said the United States will face troubles.  So what is your remark about it?

 

            MR. SENOR:  We are continuing our process here to hand over sovereignty to the Iraqi people on June 30th.  The process is on track.  Mr. Brahimi is working and engaging in wide consultations across the country here as he works in pursuit of the formation of an interim government.  Ambassador Bremer has been holding consultations here for several months and assisting with that effort.  The Governing Council has been engaging in town hall meetings in pursuit of the formation of an interim government as well.  That process is on track.

 

            We've been saying all along for many months that there will be bad days and there will be good days.  There will be bumps along the road as we move forward, and we anticipate there will be bad days between now and June 30th.  Our goal is for the good days to outnumber the bad days and for us to stay on track for the June 30th handover, which we are firmly committed to.

 

            Someone who hasn't asked.  Yes.

 

            Q     (Name and affiliation inaudible.)  I have a question for Mr. Senor, please.  There are reports that a German national has been detained in regard with being accused of being involved in fraud and bribery at one of the ministries.  Can you give us some more details about his arrest and when he was arrested and --

 

            MR. SENOR:  Was he a contractor for the coalition?

 

            Q     Oh, well, I don't know.  There are only reports that he was a German national -- that he is a German national, actually.

 

            MR. SENOR:  So it's a German national operating in Iraq that --

 

            Q     Yeah, working with the Ministry of Finance.

 

            MR. SENOR:  I know nothing about it.  If you can give me more specific information, I can look into it.  But I would recommend you probably contact the German Foreign Affairs Ministry or the German embassy to get more details.  It's not something we would necessarily have information on.

 

            Q     So you are not aware that there --  MR. SENOR:  No.

 

            Q     There's no German national in American custody?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Again, not to my knowledge, no.

 

            Someone who hasn't asked.  All right.  Go ahead, Mark.

 

            Q     Thanks, sorry.  General, could we back up a bit on the wedding incident?  You didn't quite say -- you talked to my colleague there.  You didn't quite say whether you now know whether these women and children were killed from a U.S. operation.  Do you have any answers on that yet?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  No, we don't.  I don't think we have any more information today than we did yesterday.  I know that the unit in that area is going to try to follow up based on some of the reports we heard in here last night.

 

            We haven't received any of those reports.  But again, the reports we had from persons on the ground who were part of that operation, we have had no revisions to those reports yet.  I suspect we may have some more information in a day or two.

 

            Q     Forgive me, I'm not a military expert, but it seems odd to me that the soldiers on the ground who you would now be able to speak to two days later would be able to tell you whether they shot any women and children or whether there were any women or children there. We've seen the pictures both from the Ramadi hospital and now from the scene.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  I agree with you, Mark.  They have told us they did not shoot women and children.  That is the reports that they have provided.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Dexter?

 

            Q     Dan, you said a couple minutes ago you weren't aware of any other investigation into Chalabi, and I'm wondering, does that include the investigation into whether or not Dr. Chalabi passed American intelligence to the Iranians -- to the Iranian government?  And can you talk about that investigation? 

 

            MR. SENOR:  I can't because it's not something that I am aware of or involved in.  It's not something that the Coalition Provisional Authority is engaged in.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  Mark, one thing I want to add:  There were a number of women, a handful of women -- I think the number was four to six -- that were actually caught up in the engagement.  They may have died from some of the fire that came from the aircraft.  But no American soldiers shot women, no American soldiers involved in that operation shot children.

 

            Q     But you're keeping an open mind on the --

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  We are keeping an open mind as to exactly what happened on the ground.  That's why we're continuing to try to gather all the facts.  That's why we are not ruling out anything based on new information coming forward.  But I would just remind you that what we saw in those APTN        videos were substantially inconsistent with the reports we received from the unit that conducted the operation. We are now trying to figure out why there is an inconsistency.  We are    taking the effort and making the effort to gather more information with regard to what happened out there.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, ma'am?  

 

            Q     (Through interpreter.)  Lelia Shimari (ph), the Harab (ph) Newspaper.  I have two questions.  The investigations ongoing, were you able to determine the identities of the foreigners who were in the al Qaim incident?  The increase in security problems during this period led to increase of fear with the Iraqis.  Is there anything new that the coalition force is doing to reestablish faith between itself and the Iraqi citizens?

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  The foreigners that were involved in the al Qaim incident -- actually it was about 85 kilometers southwest, close to the Syrian border.

 

            We haven't got that information of substantiating who they are.  I understand that there were a number of passports, foreign passports involved in the incident.  I think it is not -- it's just a matter of time before we have that information.  We tried to get it today, and because of the distances involved, we just weren't able to get it.

 

            But I think that's a very important question you asked, which is are we continuing our efforts to try to staunch the flow of the smugglers and the foreign fighters coming into this country. Absolutely.  That was the purpose of the operation the other night. We had credible intelligence, multiple sources of intelligence which caused us to conduct this operation on a known infiltration route. When we got on the ground, we picked up pieces of equipment characteristic of those that would be used by foreign fighters, would be used by any insurgents.  And that's why we continue to be somewhat confounded by the reports that we are seeing based elsewhere.

 

            This is part of our responsibility.  Iraqi security forces and the coalition forces, acting in a partnership, not only are responsible for providing a safe and secure environment in the cities, but also along the border regions as well.  That's why we have forces out there watching the borders, that's why we have border police services out there watching the borders, that's why we've increased the budget by almost $60 million to enhance the capabilities of the border police, that's why we've closed down some of the border crossing points.  It is a long-term project.  We are continuing that effort because we recognize that among other methods that need to be used to maintain a safe and secure environment in Iraq, stopping the flow of infiltration along the borders is one of those methods that need to be accomplished.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Yes, Rachel?

 

            Q     Just a follow-up to the INC.  Dan, you described the funding of them because they were useful.  Could you be a little more specific in which ways?  And also, are there other political parties that are currently being funded by the U.S., or have been?

 

            MR. SENOR:  The funding came, Rachel, from the U.S. Department of Defense.  So in terms of their specific role, I would refer you to the U.S. Department of Defense.  But among other things, there was the Iraqi National Congress information collection program, which my understanding, had a direct relationship with the Department of Defense.  And as far as its value and how useful it was, I would refer you to the Department of Defense.  I don't know of DOD funding for other political parties.  Again, that would be a question for the Pentagon.

 

            Yes?

 

            Q     And about the situation in the south of Iraq, in Karbala and Najaf, aren't you going to negotiate again with the al-Sadr forces in order to put an end for what's going on there?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Sorry?

 

            Q     About the situation in the south of Iraq, in Karbala and Najaf, aren't you going to negotiate again with al-Sadr in order to put an end for the fighting there in the holy shrines in Karbala and Najaf?

 

            MR. SENOR:  Sure, we've said all along that we are trying to minimize bloodshed in the south.

 

            And we would love -- we would like to reach a peaceful resolution with Sadr, and we have been encouraged by the number of Iraqi notables who have stepped forward and indicated to us that they want to reach a peaceful resolution in the south.

 

            Unfortunately, those efforts have not yielded any results to this point.  We've been disappointed by the progress that those who have stepped forward have made.  And so we find ourselves in the same situation that we've been in for a number of weeks, which is that we are clear and consistent and committed to our position that Muqtada al-Sadr must face justice, that Muqtada al-Sadr must disband and disarm his illegal militia.  And that's where we begin, and that's where we end.

 

            If there are individuals who can step forward and get us to our goals, we would view that as a constructive contribution and a positive development.  That hasn't happened to this point.

 

            GEN. KIMMITT:  And the U.S. forces -- (to staff) -- can you turn to the last slide?  U.S. forces that are operating in that area go out of their way -- if you can take a look at this overhead shot, in Karbala alone, you can see that Sadr's forces are using the mosque and the area of the mosque, the holy shrines down there, to attack coalition forces, to attack Iraqi forces.  And it takes a tremendous amount of battlefield discipline and battlefield patience to make sure that we don't inadvertently cause damage to the holy shrines.

 

            By contrast, take a look at what Muqtada and his forces have been doing.   That building is right across from the entrance to the -- the southern entrance to the holy shrine.  It took a lot of experience on the part of that young combat commander on the ground who, while taking fire from numerous rocket-propelled grenades being fired from that, rather than turn his 120-millimeter main tank round to eliminate that threat, had the combat patience to say, "If I did that, that round not only could take out that target, but could take out part of that holy shrine as well," instead decided to continue to take that fire, put himself and his soldiers at risk until we could get an AC- 130 overhead to fire on that actual target and minimizing damage to the holy shrine.

 

            I would ask you to take a look at that picture, and I'd ask you to take a look at that philosophy and take a look at that strategy, and continue to make sure that -- so that one can really understand who has the respects (sic) for the holy shrine, who has respect for    the Shi'a; who is trying to ensure that when this is all over, that the Shi'a pilgrims can come back into the cities of Najaf and Karbala, and practice their faith.

 

            We will continue to show patience.  We will continue to show resolve.  We will not allow the Muqtada militia to walk around these cities, terrorizing the people and holding back them (sic) from their way of life. We will continue to take -- go find these people.  We will continue to take them out.

 

            And we would call on Muqtada to listen to what the clerics are saying, listen to what the people of these cities are saying, listen to what his own lieutenants are saying to us, and put down his arms, put down their arms, demilitarize the Mahdi Army, and turn himself over to justice.

 

            MR. SENOR:  Thank you, everybody.

 

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